Word of Advice: Let’s Try Being Kind to Each Other!

Writer, performer and comedian Bernadette Russell.  Photograph by Gerald Kydd.

Photograph of Bernadette Russell by Gerald Kydd

Comedian, writer, performer and kindness crusader BERNADETTE RUSSELL is devoted to spreading happiness.  She recently wrote an activity book for kids based on ideas of kindness called Do Nice, Be Kind, Spread Happy.  This book resonates with Daytrippers ethos of spreading happiness to disabled and terminally-ill children.  Brook from The Daytrippers Team found out about the book while browsing Waterstones and immediately got in touch with Russell to see if she might contribute to We Are Daytrippers.  Guess what?  She said yes (yahoo!) and made us very happy because we think of her as a true expert in how to be a most excellent person.

Here is Bernadette Russell’s word of advice:

The news is really depressing and horrible. Sometimes for ghoulish fun I string together all the headlines into one long sentence like this: “scientistwarnglobalwarmingresultsinkillerbeesandimmigrantsandbenefitscheatsstealingpensionsandcausingcancer. “

It’s unbearable sometimes, to face it all, and to be left wondering “What Can I do about all that?” and those stories, on a loop, delivered 24/7 with loads of splashy headlines full of terrifying exclamation marks and dramatic bold fonts, make us think how bad the world is, how awful we are, us human beings.

I like to remind myself, of course, there is loads of bad stuff in the world, but it is always outweighed by the good. Maybe you don’t believe me. Maybe you sigh and say something like, “that’s a nice thought, but she’s living in cloud cuckoo land” (I love this expression actually, I do wonder what it would look like, and if cuckoos rule it or not? Is it actually IN THE CLOUDS? That would be great. Unlikely, but great).

I actually live in Deptford, South East London, my formerly scruffy, recently gentrified little patch of home. It’s still pretty poor, although now you can buy a soya flat white and buy organic quinoa, plus there’s a picture of Jamie Oliver visiting Deptford, on one of those luxury flat hoardings, and I like him, so I don’t mind seeing him.

Bernadette Russell, the kindness crusader

Bernadette Russell, the kindness crusader. Photograph by Graeme Braidwood.

So, a while ago, August 18th 2011, post-riots and with a head spinning with images of buildings on fire and the bigoted foamy rantings of various people in the media, I paid for a boy’s stamp in the local post office. Since then, I have promised to be kind to a stranger every day for a year. I initially committed to a year, but the experience was so life changing that I kept it up, and you can read the whole story here should you wish www.366daysofkindness.com

Pretty much for the last three hundred years we have accepted as fact the belief of various respected and powerful thinkers (Sigmund Freud etc.) that humankind is innately selfish. Often when we hear stories about someone mugging some one else in the park, we also hear “oh, that’s human nature” as if this is the natural order of things and to be expected, suggesting perhaps that kindness is the unusual thing.

I’d like to suggest that it’s not. We’ve somehow been persuaded to believe that other people are bad, to be feared, avoided, be suspicious of. But I offer you this challenge: just notice tomorrow how often people are kind to you (opening doors, helping with a heavy case, saying thanks, smiling, letting you go first, all those every day courtesies that keep society functioning and ensure that we muddle along together). Ok, so once or twice during your day someone might be rude or grumpy but I bet that’s outweighed by the good things. Every day. You might get home and say: “this man swore at me to get out of the way of the bus” On a day filled with many many small acts of kindness we report on and remember the bad ones. I try to do the reverse. I try to remember all the good things that happened in the day. I try to be kind at every opportunity. I try to forgive people for their grumpiness or rudeness (I don’t have the slightest idea what sort of day/week/life they’ve had after all). The person who is rude to me may have just found out they didn’t get a job they were after. They might have had an argument with their mum. They might be worried about money. Or just stubbed their toe.

Doing this has made me happier and less fearful. I have got to know my neighbours. I’m no saint of course. Being kind every day, remembering the good things, and being forgiving are still a challenge now, even after all this time. Sometimes I am that grumpy person on the bus. But I forgive myself that too, and shrug it off. I try to also be kind to myself in this way.

Of course I am by no means the only person who thinks this: lots of people are thinking about kindness, empathy and happiness, and how we can evolve as a species. (That whole “eye for an eye” thing not having worked out so well for us). There are loads of organisations promoting kindness and happiness, promoting ideas of hope instead of fear, having faith in human beings. There are conversations happening globally in cafes and round kitchen tables, on Facebook and twitter about these ideas: that the relentless pursuit of money and power, the acquisition of possessions, the narrow view of success that these pursuits imposes upon us has not made the world a better place and has definitely not made us happier. That there is another way.

A while ago I was at the rally to save the NHS in Trafalgar, a subject close to my heart. To me the NHS embodies compassion, empathy and a collective optimism that must be defended. Billy Bragg came on stage to sing to us all as the sun went down. He spoke about “our enemy being cynicism” and he’s right. Don’ t be cynical, and you will already be helping to make the world better. If you have to moan then ask yourself what can I do to help? There may well be something. (not moaning is a start – I often tell myself this!)

Bernadette Russell and musician Billy Bragg

Bernadette Russell and musician Billy Bragg. Photograph by Sian Williams.

But above everything else: be kind. Kindness is the same as love. In the end it is all that matters. There’s a revolution coming. It’s all going to be alright.

Bernadette Russell

Twitter @betterussell

www.366daysofkindness.com

www.thewhiterabbit.org.uk

These are some of the organisations that have helped me:

Action For Happiness

Sunday Assembly

People United

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you so much for your contribution Bernadette Russell.  x

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5 Minutes With … Kin Molina

Musician Kin Molina

Photograph by Carlos Jimenez.

Spanish journalist KIN MOLINA  was ready for a career change.  Brook from The Daytrippers Team spoke to Molina over a year ago and recalls him saying “My last interview was with Emma Stone, some American girl and I have to keep replaying the interview over and over to understand her accent!”  Molina (also known as Joaquin Molina Reina) returned to a career in music (he also occasionally makes time to cook a superb authentic paella for his neighbours!).  Authentic, wise and talented are three words to easily describe the hard-working singer and composer whose most recent album does not disappoint.  We Are Daytrippers are thankful he took time out for a brief interview:

 

The Daytrippers Team:  Who was your role model or mentor as a child?

Kin Molina:  If I had to choose a role model, it would be my mother without any doubt.  My father had problems with alcohol and my family (mum, brother and I) dealt with that situation the best way we could.  I’m Spanish and during the seventies, when I was a child, it was not very easy for women in my country.  My mother was a nurse and she worked very hard for my brother and I to have a decent life.  I remember her as a very modern and beautiful woman (she still is!), always happy and in a good mood.  She always made the most out of the difficult situation we were living in.

The Daytrippers Team:  Who is currently your role model?

Kin Molina:  As a journalist I have interviewed many famous people:  Francis Ford Coppola, Helen Mirren, Dolce and Gabbana, Tamara Rojo … to name a few.  but there was one person that made a very big impression on me; the Kenyan environmental and political activist Wangari Maathai.  She won the Nobel Prize in 2004.  A brave woman who dedicated her life to promote the recovery of the forests in Kenya and other countries.  She died in 2011.  I think she is a role model to follow for the future generations.

In the early 80’s, I worked for a literary magazine in my home city, Málaga.  I was also a part time poet and published a few poems.  At the same time, I was working in a publishing house called Dador that was dedicated to recovering hidden gems of Spanish and Latin American literature, the Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas was among them.  We met him in Madrid at the end of the 80’s and I remember him as a person full of life and joy in spite of the hardships he had endured.  At that time we met, he was exiled from Miami and unfortunately later died of AIDS.  There is a very interesting film about his life called Before Night Falls by Julian Schnabel with Javier Bardem in the role of Reinaldo Arenas.

The Daytrippers Team:  What is your creative talent and how do you cultivate it?

Kin Molina:  I wrote my first song when I was around 17.  It was a very gloomy and gothic song about a plague in a city.  During the eighties I was a member of a techno-pop band called Requiem.  We played together for five years and after the band split I went solo for a couple of years in a project more similar to electronic cabaret.  After that period of my life I moved to Madrid and went into journalism, writing for national magazines.  Recently, I returned to music after moving to London and I’m preparing to release an album.

The Daytrippers Team:  Have you had any experience with disabled people?

Kin Molina:  Yes, I have indeed.  My brother contracted polio when he was one year old.  It affected his left leg.  I am three years younger than him so as far as I can remember my brother has always been dealing with this issue.  Until adolescence it was not a big problem.  We played together, we went to the beach with my mother, and we did the usual things that boys do.  But when he was 13 or 14, everything changed.  My brother stopped coming with us to the beach and became more reclusive for a few years.  I suppose this was because he was self-conscious, but he did not and does not talk much about that.

The Daytrippers Team:  Who and what motivates and inspires you to be creative?  

Kin Molina:  Films, Art, Life.  I love Nina Simone, Marianne Faithfull, Nico, Kate Bush, Diamanda Galás, The Associates, David Bowie, Scott Walker, Brian Eno, Nick Cave, Kurt Weill … the list can go on.  If I have to choose one person, without a doubt Marc Almond would be the main source of inspiration in my music.

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you so much Kin Molina for your time.

Connect with Kin Molina:  @kin_molina

 

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5 Minutes With … Leon Logothetis

 

Leon cuddling a Boston Terrier.

Leon cuddling a Boston Terrier.

Not only does LEON LOGOTHETIS believe in being a kind person; he believes in the kindness of others.  According to Leon you can find kind people everywhere – all over the world in fact (and he would know).  Mr. Logothetis has been to every continent, visited 50 countries and hosted the TV series ‘Amazing Adventures of a Nobody.’  He documented his travels getting by on £5.00 per day and the decency of others in the form of his book The Kindness Diaries (available for purchase December 2014).

We Are Daytrippers think that any person who takes life by the horns and goes for it like Leon does deserves high marks in our book!  On his website it states:  “Changing lives one adventure at a time.”  Daytrippers can certainly relate to that challenge.  We are thankful to Leon for his time in this brief interview.

 

The Daytrippers Team: Who is currently your role model or mentor?

Leon Logothetis: I would say that the people I meet on my adventures around the world are my mentors & my role models. They teach me how to be a better person and how to see that there are two sides to every story. They also keep me humble and keep me on my toes.

Ultimately, i guess what i am saying is that ‘people’ from all walks of life have taught me that we really are all the same. We have good traits. we have bad traits. But at base we all want the same things: Love. Acceptance. Hope.

The Daytrippers Team:  Did you have a role model or mentor as a child?

Leon Logothetis: I had a mentor when I was a teenager, Dr Susan Mann.  She taught me to believe in myself. She taught the power of kindness and the necessity of following your dreams.

Leon goes bonkers!

Leon goes bonkers!

The Daytrippers Team:  What is your creative talent?

Leon Logothetis: I think my creative talent is in my writing and in my ability to connect with people. I cultivated both of these things by taking risks!

The Daytrippers Team:  Would you share a challenge in your life? 

Leon Logothetis: One of the greatest challenges I had in my life was living someone else’s definition of my life. My failure to live my own dreams led me towards depression and disappointment. when I left my job as  a broker I found the courage to be the person I always wanted to be.  In finding that courage, I have been inspired by many people along the way; people who have made me into the person I am today. Without all the connections I made, I wouldn’t be living my truth.

The Daytrippers Team:  What motivates or inspires you to be creative?

Leon Logothetis: The act of creating is motivated by my desire to inspire others to be the best they can be.  If something I do speaks to someone else in even a small way then my creativity has been worth it. And another thing that inspires my creativity is that its fun to be creative!

The Daytrippers Team: Do you have any advice for children who are facing difficulties?

Leon Logothetis: As a kid I was bullied and felt very shy and introverted. I was lucky because I met some people who believed in me and showed me that I was worth a lot more than I thought I was. If anyone tries to put you down, or take away your joy, just remember that you are worth a lot more than you think … and if that doesn’t work contact me and I will tell you!

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you so much Leon for your contribution.

Connect with Leon Logothethis: @LeonLogothetis

LeonLogothetis.comLeon Logothetis

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MY STORY: Rene Roberts “My Mind in the Mirror”

Rene Roberts and husband

Rene Roberts and husband

RENE ROBERTS does not accept mediocracy.  As a motivational speaker, primary school teacher, writer and life coach, she is driven to succeed and help others do the same.  As any bronzed Californian might, Ms. Roberts also enjoys athletics and despite her diagnosis of cerebral palsy as a young girl, she set herself the challenge to become a triathlete.  We Are Daytrippers is in awe of Roberts and salute her courage to speak out about life with cerebral palsy and in doing so, inspire future generations.

Here is Rene’s story:

When I lay in bed at night or curl up in my comfy chair to watch the Angel game or when I am in the middle of a great lesson with my first grade class, disability is no where to be found.

As a child I would walk through our neighborhood outdoor mall with my siblings or family and EVERY time I walked past a mirror or a reflection in a window I was shocked by what I saw. I never once recognized that skinny scrawny kid with the twisted legs who basically willed her body forward with each step. The metal braces were foreign. The eventual plastic braces were foreign too, but most of all the disability was and still is foreign to me. I can’t relate to it. I don’t see myself that way in the mirror of my mind.

In the mirror of my mind I am strong and tall and tan and kind of cute. Sometimes in the mirror of my mind I am even sexy but never in the mirror of my mind am I weak and broken and limping along. I never have been. I don’t know why and I can only speak to my experience but I have always believed myself to better, stronger and more capable than the reflection in the mirror. Maybe this is the way I survive. Perhaps it is the way I thrive. Some may say I am merely fooling myself, that I am delusional or that I have body dysmorphia to the positive extreme. That all may be true, but does it matter? Yes, it matters very much because each day I get up and get dressed (in cute outfits) and I go to work and I shop and I am a wife and a mom and in the mirror of my mind I am no different than you are.

What if the reverse was true? What if everyday I saw my self as socety sees me? What if I believed that because my body doesn’t look a certain way I have no right to a job or an education? What if I believed that my disability made me so ugly I should never leave the house or travel the world? What if I believed that because I was disabled I should never have children? What if I believed as so many do, that because my body is broken or twisted I must have no brain?

This is the reality of society’s mirror. I apply for 20 jobs to get offered one. I have 2 degrees because I felt I needed to be over qualified for any job to compensate for my disability. I have been shunned and suffered terrible abuse in foreign countries because “we don’t want people like you here”. I have even had parents request that their child not be placed in my class because I am disabled. Societies mirror of disability is cracked and splintered. I can’t do anything about that. I can however continue each day to manage my own reflection in the mirror. I must continue to nurture the woman I see without bitterness, anger or upset. I know now that as I reflect my image of my mind in the mirror others begin to see that reflection too.

The children I teach each day soon forget that their teacher is disabled because most days I forget. We are too busy learning and growing and laughing and exploring. Too busy most days to notice the teacher with the skinny legs or even to notice the sometimes-needed wheelchair. To my students the wheelchair for me is a tool I need to do my job in the same way their pencil is a tool they need to do their job. My reflection each day to 5 and 6 year olds has the power to alter societies reflection in the mirror. My refusal to be bitter or angry when people are stupid and cruel has the ability to alter societies reflection in the mirror. My willingness to live fully as a mother and do crazy fun things with my grown sons and someday my grandchildren will I am certain alter societies reflection in the mirror. Each day my responsibility is to manage my own reflection regardless of the cracks, splinters and distortions others may see. If my view and vision in the mirror is consistent enough perhaps those around me will start to buy new mirrors!

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you so much Rene Roberts for your contribution.

 

Rene Roberts and sons

Rene Roberts with her two sons.

 

Stay connected to Rene:  http://www.renerobertswins.com/

And also on Twitter:  @renerobertswins

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5 Minutes With … Stephen Clancy

Irish professional cyclist Stephen Clancy

Irish professional cyclist Stephen Clancy

The reputation of 22-year-old Irish cyclist STEPHEN CLANCY is impeccable. A bright, talented and kind person, it is no wonder he was asked to become an ambassador for Team Novo Nordisk; the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team. Stephen has raced 4598.25 kilometres in 33 race days in 2014 to places all over the world such as Azerbaijan, Taiwan, Denmark, Italy, France, Korea, USA, China and next week his team travels to the UK. We Are Daytrippers could not be more pleased to have his contribution to the 5 Minutes With … section and we will be proudly cheer on his team at the Tour of Britian from 7th – 14th September, 2014.  Best of luck to you in your next race, Stephen.

The Daytrippers Team:  Did you have a role model as a child?

Stephen Clancy:  Not really, however I always did look up to the top sportspeople in whatever sport I was interested in at the time as I grew up. I always admired how they were the best in the world at what they did, and what they did in order to achieve that success.

The Daytrippers Team: Who is currently your role model or mentor?

Stephen Clancy:  I would say all my Team Novo Nordisk teammates. They inspire me to combine professional cycling and live with Type 1 diabetes. Seeing that they can do it motivates me to succeed and they are always very understanding and willing to offer support.

The Daytrippers Team:  What is your talent and how do you cultivate it?

Stephen Clancy:  I consider myself a very positive, optimistic person. I try to look at the good in everything and don’t focus too much on the negative. As a result, I feel I can handle setbacks quite well and take positives from most things. I use them as stepping-stones and motivators to continue to progress and succeed.

Photograph copyrighted by Eibhir

Photograph copyright by Eibhir

The Daytrippers Team: Would you share a challenge in your life?

Stephen Clancy:  Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 19 years of age was certainly a challenge for me. It was a huge shock and difficult to understand at first. I overcame it by learning as much as I could through research and experience. In the end, this time and effort rewarded me by being able to well manage my diabetes and consequently being able to return to competitive cycling and eventually to race professionally.

The Daytrippers Team:  Do you have any advice for children who face difficulties?

Stephen Clancy:  You can still pursue your dreams. Since I was diagnosed, I’ve worn a medical ID bracelet on my wrist with the engraving “impossible is nothing”. I faced the challenge of overcoming the obstacles presented by my diabetes diagnosis and I’ve exceeded the expectations of what I thought I could achieve. This is not the only test I’ve encountered in my life. Everybody is different and everyone faces different difficulties, however whatever it may be in life, you must try to be positive and think optimistically to overcome the challenges life throws at you. You have one life, you have got to take the bad with the good and live it to the max.

The Daytrippers Team: Thank you so much Stephen!

Learn more about Team Novo Nordisk:  http://www.teamnovonordisk.com/

Stay connected with Stephen Clancy: @teamnovonordisk

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The Daytrippers Team: Love Letter to Noam Chomsky

How to convince NOAM CHOMSKY that We Are Daytrippers would greatly value his contribution?  To my chagrin his last response read: “Wish I could help, but I am afraid I cannot answer these questions.  I didn’t have a mentor or role model as a child, and don’t now, and have nothing of interest to say about the other topics.”  LogoPlease_Cuore.jpg

In May of 2014 I watched Noam speak at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London which happened to coincide with when the concept for We Are Daytrippers began to formulate.   The discussion at Chatham House was about Rethinking US Foreign Policy  of which I personally know very little but was curious to hear what Noam Chomsky had to say in person.  The legend was as I expected; comfortable in his own skin, pleasantly argumentative and brilliant in his responses.  And why wouldn’t he be? He has the experience, education, expertise and connections to find out many answers to US Foreign Policy.

Noam Chomsky speaking at Chatham House, 2014

Noam Chomsky speaking at Chatham House, 2014

It is for this reason I was so keen to feature Noam Chomsky and find out his answers to my 5 Minutes With section; pure curiosity.  When I mentioned my wish while chatting with a friend she cooly said “oh I used to correspond with Noam all the time while studying linguistics at Oxford” and a few minutes later she e-mailed some of their correspondence to me as further proof.

What’s a girl to do when she’s given the contact details of a man she wants to interview?

The next day I e-mailed him my interview questions and information about We Are Daytrippers and two hours later an assistant responded to say that Professor Chomsky was travelling. Bingo!  Just the mere response from the assistant was exciting.

A month later I sent a follow up e-mail.  Two days later Mr. Chomsky responded:

“The deluge of requests for interviews is so enormous that I am compelled, reluctantly, to resort to this form letter to say that I cannot consider any further ones until at least September.  Sorry, but just no choice.”

When 1st September rolled around I made sure to follow up for the third time thinking in the back of my mind that maybe just maybe this could be the time.

Let’s face it, Noam Chomsky IS understandably inundated with interview requests regarding human rights, international affairs, foreign policy, linguistics … the list of areas where he is considered an expert is long.  He is GREAT in an interview and can be controversial.

We Are Daytrippers aims to create an inclusion audience.  By inclusion I mean an audience of readers made up of Daytrippers Children’s Charity supporters, active members in our database and experts; but also engaging people who are not affected by children with disabilities and or life-threatening illnesses.  By doing this, we raise awareness about disability, our charity and create (hopefully) interesting content.

There are many evidence-based studies about the positive impacts role models, mentors, experts and creatives have on an individual throughout his or her life.  Our aim is to promote suitable role models for all children, disabled or not, in hopes that they might benefit.  One of our favorite advocates in this area is the neuro-scientist Mary Helen Immordino-Yang who has agreed to contribute to We Are Daytrippers.

Noam Chomsky, might you please reconsider and contribute too?

Respectfully yours,

Brook from The Daytrippers Team

Read some articles about Noam Chomsky here: http://www.chomsky.info/

 

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5 Minutes With … Louise Yates

English Illustrator and children's book author, Louise Yates.

English Illustrator and children’s book author, Louise Yates.

If you are lucky enough to meet talented Londoner LOUISE YATES do expect to be captivated.  Louise displays instant warmth and thoughtful intelligence with an artists’ inflection.  Perhaps that is partly why her gorgeous children’s books have scooped up countless prizes and international recognition.  The Daytrippers Team has read Dog Loves Books, Dog Loves Drawing and Dog Loves Counting so many times the edges have begun to fray!

Louise stands next to her portrait and chats to HRH Prince Charles

Louise stands next to her portrait and chats to HRH Prince Charles

At University, Ms. Yates read English at Christ Church in Oxford and she wrote a letter to Sir Quentin Blake to which he responded and they met to critique her portfolio.  That was over 10 years ago and the rest is history! We Are Daytrippers is happy to have had a brief interview with Louise and we look forward to buying her newest book Dog Loves Fairy Tales!

The Daytrippers Team:  Did you have a role model or mentor as a child?  

Louise Yates:  I’ve had many mentors. To me a mentor can be anyone who’s example you hope to follow – someone you know personally, or even someone you’ve read about or heard of. Even a small aspect of someone’s spirit or attitude can be your mentor: it needn’t be someone’s whole being that inspires and makes you wish to follow their example. Perhaps for this reason its best to look for the best in people. We all rub off on and influence each other and I think that by focusing on and cherishing the best in others we are more able to become a richer and more diverse mix of the good we encounter. I’m very grateful to the people in my life who have seen the best in me and given something of themselves.

The Daytrippers Team:  Who is currently your role model or mentor?

Louise Yates:  I heard earlier this year that Dr. Maya Angelou had died. I’d not heard of her before and I’ve since listened to a wonderful talk she gave. I’d like to study the things she said and wrote and try to learn from her.

The Daytrippers Team:  What is your creative talent and how do you cultivate it?

Louise Yates:  I write and illustrate, mainly creating children’s picture books, but I also love other forms of writing and art, particularly drawing and painting portraits and writing stories and poems. I cultivate this by finding time to be alone and time to be with others. I read and go to exhibitions. I love looking at the work of people I admire, and if I’m lucky enough to know them, I love spending time in their company. Friends of all kinds are essential to cultivating creative talent, especially as some forms of creativity can be quite solitary.

The Daytrippers Team:   Have you had any experience with disabled or terminally-ill people?

Louise Yates:  I was very lucky to go to schools that provided for able and disabled pupils and teachers. One of my favourite mentors was a teacher who taught me when I was seven or eight. She was born with a physical deformity that meant she was around the same height as us. She first inspired my love of poetry. She made our class feel like a family and each of us feel special. I still love reciting the poems she taught us.

Later, at a different school, I had a teacher who suffered from a severe and debilitating skin condition. She was very disfigured by her condition and movement was painful and challenging for her. Despite this, she was determined to become a teacher, and was training at the school. Sadly, she died unexpectedly as a result of a complication during an operation. She was very inspiring: we were very lucky to be taught how to be courageous and determined by someone who embodied those values.

When I was sixteen I worked in a textile factory that was run by, and that employed, people with disabilities. It was my first work experience and I met some wonderful people who looked after me and taught me how to print.

When I was at university I travelled to Bulgaria to find orphanages and institutions that needed volunteers. Many of the children I met there had been placed in the institutions because of their disabilities. They faced many challenges, but the greatest of all was neglect. The lady that helped us find the orphanages and who translated for us had a disability herself. Her family had supported her at home and her help was invaluable to us, she was very able and talented. It made me realise what a great advantage love and care gives people no matter what difficulties they face.

The greatest sadness in my childhood was the death of my Grandfather. He had cancer and his terminal diagnosis came some time before his death. I still feel very close to him – his expressions of generosity are a continuing gift to me and I still enjoy his sense of humour. I often laugh because I know something would have tickled him.

The Daytrippers Team:  Would you share a challenge in your life?

Louise Yates:  I think one of the greatest challenges is losing someone you love. I try to focus on the fact that love itself does not end and it has many ways of finding expression: it may be given to or received by someone specific, but it belongs to us all.

The Daytrippers Team:  Would you like to share a quote with children who face difficulties?

Louise Yates:  I like these words by Maya Angelou, she said: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song.”

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you so much Louise Yates.

Connect with Louise Yates:  @_DOGLOVES

http://www.louise-yates.com

See Louise in conversation with Sir Quentin Blake:

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My Life: Bobby Pennington

Life flashes in fits and starts; ups, downs and we sometimes experience it with a big BANG.  When one of The Daytrippers Team had a delicate discussion with a mother whose 4-year-old daughter was recently admitted into a childrens hospice; the word used to describe her life was heavy.  She went on to say how time stopped and she began to see through a new unsettling lens – constantly desperate for every second with her child – she did not want to blink for fear she might miss a single moment.  All people in hospice care can cling to hope and may or may not know how fleeting time ticks.  Every minute of every life is significant.

Bobby Pennington age two in 1933.

Bobby Pennington age two in 1933.

There is a very special grandfather, husband, father and son currently experiencing hospice.  His name is BOBBY PENNINGTON and he’s 83 years young.  Mr. Pennington was born in Smithville, Mississippi in 1931 and grew to dedicate his free time to music.  His parents saved their money to buy him a guitar and he practised every day.  His focus on music was serious and he excelled so much that he would regularly show up to school late and leave early in order to make it to radio stations to record with different bands.  He even played with Elvis once. When he was 15 he started playing shows in the evenings.  And that, was how he met his first wife.  She stayed late after a show one night to introduce herself to him and after a fair amount of correspondence – she snuck out of boarding school the following year after they first met; took a rogue taxi down to Mississippi and the two of them eloped.  They were both 16.

Bobby's first guitar.

Bobby’s first guitar.

Married life was a challenge as an aspiring southern musician.  Therefore after touring with Bill Gould and the Circle H Cowboys in Dallas, Texas; Mr. Pennington returned to Mississippi to wait for the next musical opportunity.  It was at that time his father-in-law gently encouraged him to further his education.  He somewhat reluctantly agreed and went on to university while playing in a local band on the weekends. As time rolled on, Bobby Pennington eventually settled down in Perry, Georgia where he was principal of Perry Middle School until he retired. He has written a biography called Goin’ Over Fools Hill.  Below he answers some questions for We Are Daytrippers about his life and opinions: IMG_20140810_180654_edit

The Daytrippers Team:  What is one of the greatest moments in your life? Bobby Pennington:  “I will never forget waiting for my eldest daughter to be born.  This was a big moment because I was clueless, but thrilled. We were at the hospital in Amory, Mississippi when my wife went into labor and I was pacing floors with my mind blown.  I was waiting and waiting and waiting and all the sudden I hear a cry.  The doctor came out and he has the baby in his hands and says ‘here is your child.’ I picked her up, got a nice stare in, and then the doctor took her down the hall. I have never forgotten that feeling.  I have had so many things happen in life that have had a lot of meaning; things that have been given to me and done for me and I appreciate that all so much … but I will never forget that feeling of elation when Nan was born.  So I went down the hallway and just beamed saying ‘I’m a daddy!’ * The Daytrippers Team:  What are some of your greatest fears? Bobby Pennington:  “To be cut off from society, not to have any friends and not have people to converse with about life.  I have a fear of dying, of having to live in a new place or to be alone without people to talk to.” IMG_20140810_181828_editThe Daytrippers Team:  Who was your role model growing up? Bobby Pennington:  “My Dad. He did not have any formal education and I think he stopped going to school in the 7th grade.   But with no education, he still provided for his family, took care of my mother and even splurged on me when he did not have the money in order for me to be successful.  I think he bought things for me that he could not afford because he wanted me to be something that he could not be.  I felt that.  He made me feel as if I was special because I was special to him.  I feel like I never gave my Dad the respect that was due to him.  I was young and felt chagrin for my parents if they did not say or do the right thing.  When I would visit him in his office and first started playing music he would look at me and say ‘son, you really made a hit with em’ today’ and at the time I didn’t understand that those words were his way of congratulating me.  The sacrifices he made in life mean the world to me now.  I’ll never forget when I played with Bill Gould we were in Little Rock, Arkansas and Bill called the first tune and said it would be The Waltz you Saved For Me.  Bill Gould and his Circle H Cowboys (Small)I thought that was a peculiar choice as that was usually one of the last tunes played in an evening.  But we started playing that tune and in waltzed my mother and father.  They had driven all the way from Smithville, Mississippi to see me at work.  It was a surprise for me that Bill Gould knew about all along.  My parents loved to waltz, they were in heaven when they were waltzing.  Sometimes I feel like success is measured when a child has made his parents proud.  That is how I felt at the time.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUjWqh6ow9s The Daytrippers Team:  What do you believe is the most important thing in a relationship? Bobby Pennington:  “Honesty.  Of course everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect.  But if you are completely honest with each other about imperfections, then you can get by.  You can get by anything as long as you are honest.  Another important thing is that you can forgive anyone as long as you know that you receive the same kind of truth.  If one person is an honest person and the other is not, it will not work.  If you can be honest, I believe you can also forgive and exist together with more purity.” The Daytrippers Team:  What do you believe creates problems in a relationship? Bobby Pennington:  “False friends.  Friendship is one of the most cherished relationships and when someone takes advantage or intentionally makes a mockery of friendship that can be one of the most damaging experiences.  I think the motive is often to impress someone else.” The Daytrippers Team: What are your thoughts about getting older?   Bobby Pennington:  “I know I am at the end of my life span.  I am trying to do things that will extend my life, like many people do – but I have to do a bit of planning for things like – where I’m going to have my funeral, who will speak and my grave site.  It’s not to be morbid, but we must be practical.  I’m still trying to enjoy life and be with people I love as much as I can.  I feel apprehensive about not being here.  The preparation for death is not a positive experience so I try to mix it up with a lot of other things that bring me happiness.  Good memories help and places to visit.” The Daytrippers Team: Where was one of your greatest journeys? Bobby Pennington: “15 years ago my wife and I went to Paris and the temperature was just right.  We visited the Louvre.  I really enjoyed the museums and seeing the eiffel tower and everything I had seen in books for years.  I had better feet then too of course.  We walked a lot and things were so different than the US.  The city impressed this old Mississippi boy.   But any place with my wife is a thrill anyway!  She’s a sharp traveller.”

Bobby, Brook and Vivian in Georgia, 2012

Bobby, Brook and Vivian in Georgia, 2012

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you Papaw Bobby, I love you – Brook http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgTe8URXQ1A *His eldest daughter was within earshot.  I think he wanted her to know her birth was the greatest moment in his life which says a lot about Mr. Pennington. If you have questions for Bobby Pennington please send an e-mail to brook@daytrippers.org.uk

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5 Minutes With … Jeremy Dean

Jeremy Dean, Artist

Jeremy Dean, Artist

The clever, thought-provoking international artist JEREMY DEAN challenges the average human perspective.  Naturally talented and a hard-worker; Dean’s first project was an award-winning documentary called Dare Not Walk Alone.  The film exposed the civil rights movement and its aftermath in St. Augustine, Florida.  His Futurama Series continues to raise eyebrows and received continuous National press coverage as he toured the USA in an H2 Hummer converted into a horse-pulled stagecoach. Jeremy works in a variety of artistic realms; animation, drawing, interactive sculpture and installation.  He has spent this year in artist residencies preparing his next projects.  We Are Daytrippers chats to Mr. Dean about role models, mentors and creativity.

The Daytrippers Team:  What was your childhood like and did you have a role model?

Jeremy Dean:  I was raised the son of missionaries in the Amazon jungle of Peru and the Yucatan of Mexico.  As a kid we grew up among native Indian children, and we had almost no idea we were different.  In fact, we tried very hard to overcome any differences of language, culture, or food (especially food!) that made us or them, feel “other.”  In doing so we hunted with bows and arrows, fished for piranha and ate monkey on several occasions. During this time my parents were my role models.  I didn’t fully understand it at the time, but the way they approached life with an openness and acceptance of new experiences and people has always stuck with me.

The Daytrippers Team:  Who is your current role model or mentor?

Jeremy Dean:  When I was in college I had a first year art instructor who opened my eyes to art as a way of understanding and exploring the world. To this day I still count her as my mentor… Maureen O’Neill

Work in Progress combined chairs Jeremy Dean

Work in Progress
combined chairs
Jeremy Dean

The Daytrippers Team:  What is your creative talent and how did you cultivate it?

Jeremy Dean:  I would say that I’m not that talented, but I work hard.  I work really hard at thinking.  The nice thing about thinking is that we can all do it, basically at any time, any where.  You don’t need specialized equipment, tools or even an education… you just need curiosity, questions and a willingness to follow wherever the thought leads.  That’s not to say that thinking is not hard work, because it is… but i have found that it makes the making of art easier.  Thinking is working.  Drawing is thinking, and when you are making, hands can think on their own…

 

The Daytrippers Team:  Would you share a challenge in your life?  How did you overcome it and what did you learn?

Jeremy Dean:  Almost two years ago I found that I have a fractured vertebrae that is continually moving out of place, and will eventually shift so far that it will need to be fused.  I had a lot of difficulty walking, working and even sleeping.  I’m a pretty active person and have spent a lot of time surfing (which I could not do), so I started swimming.  I swam every day for almost 6 months and I started to get relief.  The condition won’t go away, and the pain is always there, but I found something I could do that I enjoyed and with a lot of work, I am seeing progress.  What I learned is that life is always going to be a series of obstacles… that is just the way it is.  Some of us have more then others, but we will all have them at some point. It’s important to know that when we are in the middle of an obstacle not to give up, remembering that at some point it will pass.

American Flags, 2011

Rended Flag Series, 2012 Jeremy Dean

 

The Daytrippers Team: What motivates or inspires you to be creative?

Jeremy Dean:  I’m pretty curious to figure out why things are the way they are… I’m not that motivated to try to make things that are cool (not that there is anything wrong with that) but I am really motivated to make things that help me understand how things work… or more specifically how  we as people work and how we relate to one another over time.  I’m pretty interested in the “why” of things.

Rended Flag Series, 2012 Jeremy Dean

Rended Flag Series, 2012 Jeremy Dean

The Daytrippers Team: Do you have any advice you might want to share to children who could be facing difficulties?

Jeremy Dean:  The poet Maya Angelou passed away recently and I find comfort in her words… You can not be any more human than you are Find a piece of art to love, and when you find it, recognize that the person who made it was a human just like you are human.  I think what she meant by this is; recognize  that the common denominator in art is our shared humanity. Others may have a better ear for music, their body may move more easily in a dance, drawing may come easier at first… but they can not be any more human than you.  People make art. What you have to make your own music, is yours, and what another might have to make her own painting is hers, but it does not change the fact that real human people with all of their own struggles and complications, figured out a way to exercise their own voice – and so can you.  You have everything you need to express your own vision, and in fact that is what art is – your own vision.  What others have, you don’t need – that is theirs – what you have is all you need- that is yours.  Your unique story, with all it’s complications, setback and heartbreaks is what gives you the platform to express what it means to be you.  We need to hear your voice, and when we recognize your particular song as something we also feel, then we understand what it means to be human.

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you so much Jeremy.

Contact Jeremy through his agency Creative Thriftshop:  http://www.creativethriftshop.com/Artist/Bio_JeremyDean.htm

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Our Story: Melanie and Elliott Preston

Elliott Preston at 1 month old

Elliott Preston at 1 month old

Nurse and Mom MELANIE PRESTON from Knoxville, Tennessee writes about her first month with baby ELLIOTT PRESTON.  Melanie has agreed to regularly update the We Are Daytrippers media project as Elliott was born with down syndrome.

Here is their story:

What a crazy month!  It’s hard to believe I had this baby laying on my chest nearly a month ago in my car.  Did that really happen?!  It seems like a lifetime ago already.

I remember my mom telling me when I was young that I was growing up too fast and I thought she was crazy because I was never even going to be a teenager at the rate the years seemed to slowly drag on and on.  Then I had my first child who is now a teenager himself and somehow all of a sudden my 20 year high school reunion approaches next year as well.  It’s like I blinked and all of a sudden the years passed.

Maybe my Mom was right.

Perhaps it was the ten days in the NICU which helped this month pass by so quickly … or the multiple doctors and therapy appointments we have had since being home.  I can’t even begin to count!

I won’t lie, while some people loathe the doctor I secretly love them so much.  It’s fascinating to learn about different medical diagnosis and I love medical tests and analyzing the results.   My husband on the other hand seems to be the more typical person and he finds appointments and mostly the waiting room his LEAST favorite place.  His appointment enthusiasm is not on par with my own.

Now about Elliott: What we have found from all of these constant appointments is that he is doing really well.  All of his doctors and therapists have been really impressed.  Why you may ask?  Well, let me tell you!  Yes, his tone is low, which is typical for children with Down Syndrome and it is making him the most flexible, yet wiggly baby ever.  He is able to track with his eyes on par with most 1 month old babies although getting him to open his eyes is a challenge in itself as it is rare for him to be awake.  He passed the newborn hearing test and his heart defects are so mild he won’t be seeing a lot of our fabulous cardiologist.  The pulmonary hypertension has resolved and he is off oxygen during the days now!

Hello Elliott!

Hello Elliott!

We have a follow up appointment next month and then he has to undergo a sleep study.  If he passes the study he can then be oxygen free.  Just being off of oxygen during the day is such a feeling of freedom.  Imagine being tied all day long to a very, very, very long cord:  not convenient.

As of last week, Elliott weighed in at nearly 9lbs (4.08 kilos) with his only feeding issue being a case of mild reflux.  All my kids have had reflux in  some capacity so this was not really a shock at all (it was more expected actually).  Elliott is a great baby, pretty laid back most of the time unless he is hungry and then he can get pretty vocal but otherwise he is sleeping or hanging out.  Overall it’s been a great sleep-deprived month just as I expected.

Who knows what the rest of 2014 will bring … or the next 10 years for that matter.  I’ll be sure to update We Are Daytrippers about Elliott’s progress in the next few months.   I hope as a family we can take the time to enjoy these newborn days and live in the moment because as I know all too well; one day I’m going to turn around and Elliott won’t be the baby on my chest but he will be the teenager rummaging through the kitchen cabinets eating us out of house and home.

Cheers to 1 month!  xoxo The Prestons

Stay connected with Melanie and Elliott:  @augustinmarch #amazingelliott

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